TOKYO - Nintendo has finally launched its GameCube console in Japan, and the reception to this point has been relatively low-key. Though it was expected there would be lengthy lines by the time stores were closing on Tuesday evening, both the Akihabara and Shinjuku districts, where game consumers gather, have been pretty quiet. Less than half a dozen people were waiting to buy a console by that evening, and toward early morning Wednesday, the number did not significantly rise. One of Akihabara's game stores, Laox Computer Game, was expected to have long lines, as it did with the Sony PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo Game Boy Advance launches, but around 6:00am, an hour before the store opened, only about 20 people were waiting in line. And surprisingly the majority of them were from outside Japan. Some of those in line actually came from the US to buy the Japanese import version of the GameCube hardware and software.
Shinjuku was slightly more lively. At Yodobashi Camera in the West Exit, the lines were longer before the 7:00am opening of the store, but even here the lines were not as crowded as was expected. Usually lines for console launches at this location stretch farther, turning corners and going around the block, but today there was only a short, straight line. Though most were video game consumers, few in line were parents buying the GameCube for their children. After the stores opened, the lines generally moved in an orderly fashion, and probably less than an hour after the doors opened the lines dissolved. After that, it was relatively easy to purchase the hardware and software. It must be noted that convenience stores, such as Lawson, and some of the smaller retailer stores jumped the gun and began selling the console a day or two earlier.
Nintendo shipped approximately 500,000 units for the launch of the GameCube. Preorders for the console began at a variety of Japanese retail stores last month, and according to several retailers, the preorder campaign has been "fairly good." Although at this point the GameCube launch doesn't seem as stunning as the launch of Nintendo's GBA handheld, for example, more stores should be opening shortly. And it will be interesting to see how the rest of the day pans out. GameSpot will have new screens and media of the three launch titles--Wave Race: Blue Storm, Luigi's Mansion, and Super Monkey Ball--in a short while. So stay tuned.